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Two-Photon Walk a Giant Leap For Quantum Computing

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the stochastically-awesome dept.

United Kingdom 112

ElectricSteve writes "Research conducted at the University of Bristol means a number of quantum computing algorithms may soon be able to execute calculations of a complexity far beyond what today's computers allow us to do. The breakthrough involves the use of a specially designed optical chip to perform what's known as a 'quantum walk' with two particles ... and it suggests the era of quantum computing may be approaching faster than the scientific establishment had predicted. A random walk – a mathematical concept with useful applications in computer science – is the trajectory of an object taking successive steps in a random direction, be it over a line (with only two possible directions) or over a multi-dimensional space. A quantum walk is the same concept, but translated to the world of quantum computing, a field in which randomness plays a central role. Quantum walks form an essential part of many of the algorithms that make this new kind of computation so promising, including search algorithms that will perform exponentially faster than the ones we use today."

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112 comments

does this mean (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606144)

We soon need to certify in quantum-mechanical logic to write software?
Any good resources?

Re:does this mean (3, Informative)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606158)

most software can't benefit from quantum logic...

Re:does this mean (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606182)

most software can't benefit from quantum logic...

Are you a professional programmer?

Predicting randomness would've save me alot of time in my projects ;)

Re:does this mean (3, Insightful)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606204)

i'm a senior engineer.

how would quantum logic creating randomness help you predict randomness?

Re:does this mean (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606284)

No, you're a troll.

Re:does this mean (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606328)

No, you're a troll...

Re:does this mean (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606380)

No, you're the troll.

Re:does this mean (2, Funny)

transwarp (900569) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606500)

No, each of you both are and are not trolls. :)

Re:does this mean (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 3 years ago | (#33609208)

Rofl, now that I think about that, they are arguing the same thing in both universes and in one universe coward 1 is wrong and coward 2 is right, in the other coward 2 is wrong and coward 1 is right xD

Pretty funny if you imagine that ^^.

Re:does this mean (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606512)

No, I'm the troll.

And so's my wife.

Re:does this mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606560)

can you two trolls stop trolling?

Re:does this mean (-1, Troll)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606756)

Ooh! OOH! Can I be a troll too?

#include <iostream>
#include <windows.h>

using namespace std;

int main() {
cout<<"My dick, Your Ass"<<endl;
cout<<" B=======( ) "<<endl;
Sleep("2000"); System("CLS"); cout<<"\a";

cout<<"My dick, Your Ass"<<endl;
cout<<"B=====D ( Y ) "<<endl;
Sleep("2000"); System("CLS");
}
return 0;
}

Re:does this mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606910)

(whoops, forgot the

for(;;) {

on line 9. And Sleep is capitalized but system is not. Compiling before posting? That'll be the day...)

Re:does this mean (1)

Cstryon (793006) | more than 3 years ago | (#33613170)

I'm glad you are a senior engineer. Mind if I pick your brain?

I won't pretend to understand quantum logic. But how would arranging for photons (Or electrons, or whatever you want for your object), to take a random step in a random direction, help computing? Doesn't computing depend on expected actions with expected results, as opposed to random possible actions with maybe even more random possible results?

Or would this new machine expect that position of particle 1 would be in position A, or B? Observe and get either A or B. If B do this.... If A do this...
  But even that sounds like expected actions with expected results. Darn spooky mechanics!

Re:does this mean (1)

Mike Kristopeit (1900306) | more than 3 years ago | (#33613358)

i'm confused what makes you glad i have a job, but i'll give you the quantum mechanics 101:

it's not about taking singular steps, it's about taking all possible steps in the same time it would take to take a single step. think about parallel processing... not all applications lend themselves to benefitting from parallelization... in fact, almost all procedural processes can't benefit at all. the same is true for quantum logic.

one of the most important applications of quantum logic is reversing encryption.

Re:does this mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606176)

Why start now? Modern software operates on no known logic I can see. Except, of course, gobble up all the hardware resources in sight then blame the hardware for being slow.

Re:does this mean (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606778)

Microsoft is coming out with Windows Quantum Edition. It only BSOD's when you are observing it; and is in an undetermined state when you are not. How is that different from regular Windows you ask? Well......um...

Re:does this mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606866)

We soon need to certify in quantum-mechanical logic to write software?

Yes and no.

I just want to know... (0)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606150)

when can I have one on my desktop, and will it make completely immersive games possible. Sure search algorithms are great and all, and so are other scientific wonders that can come about from quantum computing, but unless I can have fun with it at home it does fuck all for me.

HEX

Re:I just want to know... (2, Insightful)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606198)

Unless they perfect a neural interface I'm pretty sure you won't be getting completely immersive games... But I'd be interested in seeing what kind of crazy fractal-based graphics and random world maps they can make with this tech.

Re:I just want to know... (2, Informative)

darien.train (1752510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606472)

Unless they perfect a neural interface.

I believe you mean until they perfect the neural interface. If the story is true, the neural interface seemed a lot closer to reality than practical quantum computing until about 3 mins ago.

Re:I just want to know... (1)

jordan_robot (1830144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33607028)

Been waiting for this for over 20 years. Though I'll be sure to skip rev. 1.

Re:I just want to know... (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 3 years ago | (#33609240)

"It's safe to turn of the universe now" -Windows, no wait, Wormhole 2095.

"General Protection Fault?!?! You- You.... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!"

Re:I just want to know... (1)

Adm.Wiggin (759767) | more than 3 years ago | (#33608478)

... the neural interface seemed a lot closer to reality than practical quantum computing until about 3 mins ago.

So what you're saying is that we couldn't know where we were until we opened our eyes?

Re:I just want to know... (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#33611490)

Don't do it! I've tried one of those newfangled Quantum Consoles and ended up in this Universe. Can I get out now? Please?

Re:I just want to know... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606486)

Screw immersive gaming. How is this going to help me watch porn in the interweb.

Re:I just want to know... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33607868)

Screw immersive gaming. How is this going to help me watch porn in the interweb.

I'm glad you've asked that question, here's how it works:

First you have to rub one off, then by the Magic of Quantum(TM) the girl inside the video gets a bunch of milk products on some part of her body right afterwards. So it's like being there, but the technology scales simultaneously to millions of web surfers in their parents basement!

Re:I just want to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33607198)

The key phrase is "may soon be able to...." Indeed! We may soon be able to dial up the color of our walls, we may soon be able to drive a flying car, Las Vegas may soon run out of water, we will soon run out of electricity; all these predictions are at least 30 years old, and flying cars comes from right after WWII. Pardon me if I don't hold my breath.

Re:I just want to know... (1)

akirapill (1137883) | more than 3 years ago | (#33607666)

Based on this [slashdot.org] article, I would count on quantum computing having a big impact on computer graphics. A quantum algorithm that can crunch matrices exponentially faster than current techniques would be as important for graphics (and many other fields) as a quantum computer's ability to quickly factor large numbers would be for cryptography.

Quantum Discovery! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606168)

Didn't we just have an article on slashdot about the realities and exaggerations of the capabilities of quantum computing and what they would actually do? I hope this discovery is really going to do what the author hopes it means, and is not an exaggeration.

Two-Photons Walk (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606190)

into a bar... wait... where am I?

Re: Two-Photons Walk (5, Funny)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606270)

Just open your eyes, and see where you are. After seeing it you are not going to be anywhere else, but before looking, I can't really tell you.

Re: Two-Photons Walk (2, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606484)

But by looking you change where you are, so that doesn't work...

Re: Two-Photons Walk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606780)

My interpretation is that you don't change where you are, you only observe where you are when you look....

Re: Two-Photons Walk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33607844)

My interpretation is that your mom is only ugly when you look...

Re: Two-Photons Walk (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33608744)

i wonder about that, is by obversing you change your location, do you observe the old, or the new location? (if you observe the new one, nothing bad happens really, you know where you are), and, if you keep observing, do you also keep changing your location? (in other words, is the location change edge-triggered on the act of observing, or a continous side-effect of the observing?)

bah, if this means i have to get my head around quantum-physics to continue working as a programmer i'd better start learning a new job..

Re: Two-Photons Walk (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | more than 3 years ago | (#33612396)

bah, if this means i have to get my head around quantum-physics to continue working as a programmer i'd better start learning a new job..

Nah. Assuming the 10 year prediction cones true, there will be a select few applications where supergeek programmers manage to make this thing work. Then about 5 years later a double plus good supergeek, who double majors in quantum mechanics and computer engineering (but never learns to tie his shoes), will invent a beautifully elegant programming language to do all the heavy lifting for you. Unfortunately, his work will get caught up in IP conflicts, and the dev tools will cost you one year's salary.

Re: Two-Photons Walk (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 3 years ago | (#33609264)

In one universe you open your eyes and in the other you don't, so there are three universes now. It's like playing God :D

Re: Two-Photons Walk (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606456)

Actually they walk in, order, drink, get trashed, get into a fight and are thrown out

ALL AT THE SAME TIME

Re: Two-Photons Walk (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606468)

So they were lepton?

Re: Two-Photons Walk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606818)

No, just couldn't decide who was going to be top and who bottom.

Guess I'll be the first to go into battle (1)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606790)

I believe the technical jargon makes it sound much more complicated than it is. Understanding what the scientists did requires knowing about 'random walks' and their significance. Think of a typical processor working on a problem that involves random walk sequences. Now imagine if that was replaced by getting 2 photons to calculate the 'random walk' part of the problem -- speed is massively increased, and quantum superpositions are now hopefully being utilized. The problem, in many cases, may have just become exponentially easier and faster.

Just another "small step" out of thousands we are blessed with being able to witness. Patience is a virtue.

When will it be useful to the real world? (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606272)

For example, assume there are... cans... situated in the area around me. Inside these cans are... recyclable materials. I'm on a... Segway. What's the optimal path I should take to loot\h\h\h\hretrieve the items in the cans in the least amount of time?

Don't think PC (1, Redundant)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606298)

According to the quantum computing video from a while ago (I think it was 90 minutes or something, I just watched 20), a quantum computer is designed for the problem it solves- they aren't general purpose like the processors in use today. As far as I understood from the video*, quantum computers are mostly just useful for doing calculations related to quantum physics.

*If I'm wrong/misleading, please correct me.

Re:Don't think PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606522)

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that a quantum computer would be along the lines of a conventional processor.

The main difference is that it will be able to compute algorithms far quicker, and I -think- it's because eventually it won't have to limit itself to binary code, as I've heard a theory about detecting the spin of the atoms/particles/photons (whatever it uses) that the quantum processors use that allows more data to be passed in the same amount of time compared to binary code.

Can't provide a citation as I can't remember where I read it, heh.

Re:Don't think PC (2, Informative)

Captain Segfault (686912) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606688)

You can make general purpose quantum computers if you have a working set of "quantum gates" or similar -- much like you can make a general purpose classical computer if you have a working set of classical gates.

Re:Don't think PC (2, Informative)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606708)

A quantum computer able to do useful classical computing (i.e., factoring large numbers) would have to have a large number of bits (512-1024, very far away by any metric). A quantum computer able to do simulations of quantum systems beyond what current supercomputers could do would have to have maybe 10 bits (maybe not too far away).

Re:Don't think PC (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606740)

Currently the most usable way would indeed be to make a quantum processing unit that latches onto an otherwise classical computer, a bit like how a graphics card works. However, quantum computers are useful for way, way more than just quantum physics. Quantum crypto and solving NP-complete problems faster would just be two small examples of what we can do with it, but remember: quantum physics, particularly quantum computing, are a young field. You should expect more and more possibilities as we move on, especially once actual quantum computers exist (IE not just a handful of qubits).

Can somebody translate TFA? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606304)

Well, it seems there is no article yet to be read, and I couldn't understand anything from the press release. What does it mean a "one photon quantum walk", and what is the difference from any other kind of transformation that happens on a photon? Also, what is the difference of "two-photon quantum walk" and normal interference?

Or, in other words, what did they actualy do?

Re:Can somebody translate TFA? (2, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606566)

What does it mean a "one photon quantum walk"

Conceptually, no different from a "one-ball-in-the-maze random walk" - can have a single state.

...and what is the difference from any other kind of transformation that happens on a photon?

Again, no difference: the photons will random walk the maze independently (entanglement is not a requirement).

Also, what is the difference of "two-photon quantum walk" and normal interference?

a. Conceptual: while walking the maze (and solving your problem), the photons will be particles, thus interference is not an issue to consider.
b. The maze you make the photons walk through (instead of just two slits) should be programmable (model the system for which you want to compute the answer).
c. one may use interference at the end of "computation" to determine the probability of "maze exits" being chosen. This is why the extra requirement of "photons need to be identical" (when using them as waves to get the answer, one needs coherence).

Well, it may be a bit more complicated than that (i.e. one can have a single physical "exit" from the maze but different polarization states of the "balls"), but essentially the answer will come in "the experimentally determined superposition of quantum states after going through the quantum programmable maze").

fake 'weather' getting to be little too much (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606366)

see also: google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=weather+manipulation

see also:
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=bush+cheney+wolfowitz+rumsfeld+wmd+blair+obama+weather+authors

Re:fake 'weather' getting to be little too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606428)

youtube.com/watch?v=M60N0PCUgVQ&feature=player_embedded

Pre-emptive Explanation of Quantum Computing (4, Informative)

mathimus1863 (1120437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606586)

Because people always get it wrong every time a QC article hits slashdot, here's a link to my previous, highly-modded (upwards) post on QC:

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1285849&cid=28520061 [slashdot.org]

Quantum computers can do some cool things, but mostly solve problems no one cares much about (except a few of us mathematicians)

Re:Pre-emptive Explanation of Quantum Computing (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33607092)

Very nice summary, thanks.

Kind of reminds me of what photonic computing can do. Because photonic interference takes place more or less for free, if you can arrange your problem in a clever way, you can get the photons to do you work for you.

Re:Pre-emptive Explanation of Quantum Computing (2, Insightful)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#33608320)

Quantum computers can do some cool things, but mostly solve problems no one cares much about (except a few of us mathematicians)

That is until some practical application is found that uses the solution. From what I've heard, Boolean algebra was thought to have no utility for a very long time after it was discovered, but nowadays...

Re:Pre-emptive Explanation of Quantum Computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33609654)

QC i thought it was Questionable Content

Re:Pre-emptive Explanation of Quantum Computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33610838)

quantum bits have questionable content by default.

Does this mean I don't have to study FORTRAN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606596)

A Quantum Computer will declare a private island for you, build a jet plane, and figgin' fly you there.

That's a win-win!

Exponential Speedup?? (3, Informative)

mathimus1863 (1120437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606612)

Summary is wrong. Quantum algorithms cannot provide "exponential" speedup of any problem. If they could, we would be able to [probably] solve NP-complete problems with quantum computers, and that hasn't been proven yet. The best they can do is "super-polynomial" speedup of classical algorithms.

Google "quantum algorithm zoo" to see all the known algorithms and their speedups (and how unexciting most of them are).

Re:Exponential Speedup?? (2, Interesting)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33608208)

How about raytracing or particle physics?

Re:Exponential Speedup?? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 3 years ago | (#33609358)

Um, what? What about them? Are you claiming you have an algorithm that gives an exponential speedup for those problems? If so, publish it, and collect millions of dollars.

If not, are you saying we should assume that a quantum computer would be better for those problems? Why?

Re:Exponential Speedup?? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33611036)

I'm just asking if quantum processors could benefit those tasks. I'm not assuming anything.

Re:Exponential Speedup?? (3, Informative)

Catullus (30857) | more than 3 years ago | (#33608558)

This comment isn't accurate. There are problems for which quantum computers are indeed exponentially faster than our best known algorithms running on a standard computer. The most important of these is probably simply quantum simulation - i.e. simulating quantum mechanical systems. This has umpteen applications to physics, chemistry and molecular biology (e.g. drug design).

Re:Exponential Speedup?? (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33609040)

I knew you'd have to correct at least one person in this story. Seriously, get out now while you still can.... ;)

YAFC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606660)

Yet Another Flying Car

-Mesotach

Padding Resume. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33606668)

Seams like it about time to start putting 5 years of real world quantum programming experence on the old resume.

Re:Padding Resume. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33607766)

Sorry but we are looking for someone with minimal 6 years experience of quantum programming.

Next.

Don't forget to include... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33609728)

Expert typing and speling skills.

Re:Padding Resume. (1)

postermmxvicom (1130737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33609782)

I could have any number of years of real world quantum computing experience. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine how many before you hire me. I can, however, provide you with some probabilities.

i'll tell you what i'd do man (1, Offtopic)

pedropolis (928836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33606916)

Peter Gibbons: What would you do if you had a million dollars?

Lawrence: I'll tell you what I'd do, man: two photons at the same time, man.

Re:i'll tell you what i'd do man (1)

wmbetts (1306001) | more than 3 years ago | (#33607056)

Peter Gibbons: But you can already do that. You don't need a million dollars.

Randomness (0, Redundant)

Lotana (842533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33607052)

I just can't comprehend quantum computing and quantum mechanics in general.

What absolutely derails me is the talk about randomness, probability and statistics inherent with this field. The word chance gets mentioned a lot and that just stops me in my tracks.

In programming there is simply no room for chance. Algorithm must always return the same result given same parameters. 1 + 1 must always return an exact, perfect value of 2 no matter how many times it is executed.

But from what I read, in quantum world you can only say that this particular action will result in probability of 0.99999999999 (Number of nines vary per setup) of returning that particular result. Very large amount of nines sounds reassuring, but given the speed of CPU's processing an instructions billions of times per millisecond, give enough execution time and eventually you will hit that one time when the result will not be what is expected.

And one wrong result will put the entire program into an undefined state.

When every instruction has a chance (VERY minute but still) of failing how do you even start to approach an issue of debugging. In order to plan my program flow I need the stability of my assumptions. And this is even before we start talking about the really weird parts of quantum mechanics (Superposition of states, etc).

Perhaps I just don't understand the field of probability and statistics. Quantum computation is a reality thus randomness is not an insurmountable hurdle that my mind makes it to be. I would really appreciate if someone with some knowledge in the area would try to explain (Or provide me with a link that directly addresses this issue) how the chances of particle states get converted into solid 100% reliable predictability.

Re:Randomness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33609204)

Actually as far as I'm aware the algorithm that checks for primality when generating two prime numbers for public key encryption is probabilistic. It just keeps running until the chance of being wrong is smaller than the (nonzero) chance of your computer being hit by a cosmic ray during the calculations. I doubt that's the only application of probabilistic algorithms in everyday life.

So there you go. Your classical computers are only right with probability (1-p) where p is the chance of something strange happening (hardware failure, bit flipping by cosmic rays, whatever).

Re:Randomness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33610966)

go to video.google.com and search for Richard Feynman lectures. There are four lectures for a general (but interested) audience, easy to follow and it will give you a grasp of what's going on.

And remember: if you think you understand quantum physics, you don't understand quantum physics.

This FP fo8 GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33608052)

First, you hav5e to

Two photons walk (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33608650)

Two photons walk into a bar, orders a round of IPA and asks "How much do we owe?"
The barkeep says "For you? No charge."

Re:Two photons walk (2, Funny)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 3 years ago | (#33610394)

Then they walk into a church and are turned away by the priest. He says, "No mass for you."

nike shoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33608668)

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Some background (4, Informative)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 3 years ago | (#33608888)

Let me provide some context. This research group specializes in manufacturing arbitrary waveguide structures on chips, then coupling particular quantum states of light into them. The idea is to turn a large optical table worth of mirrors into a tiny chip. What they have done here, is allowed a two photon input state to interfere with itself in the waveguide structure.

While interesting technically, it isn't exactly a huge leap forward because the interaction is linear. What's needed for deterministic quantum computation with light is a very non-linear process. The waveguide structure can replace a large number of mirrors and compact the optics into a tiny space but, at the end of the day, mirrors aren't all that interesting for quantum computation. It is, however, worthwhile because of the impressive miniaturization and the technical challenge of working with quantum light in such tiny structures. A strong non-linear component will be needed for true optical quantum computation, but chips like these show a lot of promise for handling a lot of state preparation and measurement.

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